Tagged: Relationships

A Walk In Progress

We each have a certain amount of minutes. We don’t know how many that is. Research shows that the more of those minutes we spend being mindful and positive the more we are likely to have, and the more we are likely to enjoy. Taking walks tends to help me be increasingly mindful and positive. I find walks to be joyful and fulfilling. 

I went for another walk today. I’ve been going for as many walks as I can. Walks are great reminders for me. Being present during a walk brings me growth-producing benefits. 

I don’t always feel holistically enthusiastic about walks before I take them. I do, however, always feel glad I’ve taken one when I have. Remembering that helps motivate me. 

The other day I took a walk with our 9 year-old. Even better than a walk by myself, a walk with someone I love. We had been sitting on the couch. We both started falling asleep. Nothing wrong with a good nap on a lazy weekend day, but what about a walk instead, I thought. 

I gave him the option. I said we could either close our eyes and drift off into our naps, or we could go for a walk. I was glad he chose the walk. We had to jump up in that moment, get geared up and step out the door or it never would have happened. We did it. Next thing I knew we were on our way.

A mile and a half to the neighborhood coffee shop. Not too long, and just long enough. The air was crisp and the sun was shining. Perfect. A perfect winter moment. Just enough bite to feel everything and the constant companion of the sun following along the whole time, warming out faces and counterbalancing the cold. We talked, laughed and had a great time.

Sometimes on a walk, I slip away from presence and into rushing. When I do, it feels like an opportunity to return to the present. It feels like a chance to build that mindful muscle. 

I can’t think of an endeavor that has an end. We’re always becoming. Most of what we do we need to learn to do, then refine, then practice, and then spend our time continuously enhancing. That goes for mindfulness, too. Heck, that goes for going for a walk. 

Our lives are not about reaching a point at which we feel comfortable stopping, but rather about continuously developing into more happy, fulfilled and accomplished versions of ourselves along what is ideally a balanced journey. 

Walks help me think clearly. They help me spend time with people I love in fun ways. They give me exercise and they make me slow down. 

I’ve always been very much a work in progress. I find more and more each day, that the work progresses in increasingly positive and meaningful ways when I also have a walk in progress.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks. 

A Focus on Subjective Well-Being at Work

There was a time when we in the western world didn’t understand the broad and overarching importance of well-being, especially in the workplace. A long time. 

Going to work has historically meant going…to…work, and expressly notgoing to fun, going to comfort, or going to enjoy yourself in any way, or going to enhance subjective well-being. Regrettably, I still hear people talking about their work, and their workdays, in ways that make me wonder how we can do better. 

Counting the minutes and thanking the heavens it’s Friday seems to be common practices in the modern workplace. 

On the other hand, I do regularly talk with people who make clear that they look forward to going to work. 

At school, I know lots of teachers, ancillary and support staff who consistently tell me they love, and are grateful for their jobs. Naturally, those people are also relationship-builders, risk takers and innovators. 

Whenever I’m in spaces with educators who talk about loving their jobs I see them (and the kids they serve) experiencing joy and balance. Kids’ at school, with adults who love their jobs, are generally increasingly interested and engaged. They connect and they collaborate. Together, they celebrate learning. 

My learning journey has let me to understand subjective well-being as synonymous with life satisfaction. How happy are you with you, personally and professionally? The answer to that questions speaks to your subjective well-being, and your well-being by any measure. Your well-being is an indicator of so much more, including physical health, longevity, social engagement, creativity and productivity.

Everyone lives within a range of emotions. We each feel happy, sad, angry, worried, and all the in betweens at different times. By happy I don’t mean smiling and skipping, I mean feeling good about about yourself overall. I mean being able to face challenges with confidence and resolve, and being able to celebrate triumphs (big and small) with genuine joy and gratitude.   

Subjective well-being is about how we feel when we wake up in the morning and when we go to sleep at night. It’s about how we interact with one another throughout the day. It’s about achieving our goals. It’s about how frequently we exercise, and the depth and frequency of our reflectivity and mindfulness. It’s about making choices that bring us positive outcomes. It’s about focusing on the positive while facing the negative with courage and resilience. It’s about hope, optimism and balance.

Ed Diener and Katherine Ryan wrote about subjective well-being in their article, “Subjective Well-Being: A General Overview.” In the article, they explore the impacts of subjective well-being on individuals and on communities. They point out, “…a growing body of research shows that high levels of subjective well-being are beneficial to the effective functioning of societies beyond the advantages they bestow on the individual.” (p. 392)

This notion suggests that we should not only be focused on our own well-being but also on the well-being of others. By regularly using tools and strategies like gratitude, kindness, compassion and reflection we can enhance our own experiences and the experiences of those we share the world with. 

When we perceive high levels of life satisfaction we tend to be more settled, more calm, more productive and more engaged. All of which brings increased positive contributions and balance to the communities in which we live and work. 

From a leadership perspective, focus on individual well-being is a clear path to a strengthened organizational well-being. Organizational leaders in all secures could enhance their practice by making a point to connected with employees, asking a very simply question, “Are you happy at work?”

If the answer is “no,” we have some good data and a positive pathway to do better. Follow up question would be, “Why do you think that is” and/or, “What would make the workplace a positive, rewarding place for you?”

Some people may know the answer, others may not. In either case, with a focus on well-being in the workplace, extending happiness, productivity and balance (both professionally and personally, and both individually and collectively), we can exhaust that dialogue and translate each reasonable finding in to action.

The bottom line is that a focus on subjective well-being for every individual and for all can enhance our work, our lives, and our contributions to enhanced lives of those around us. Increased well-being makes happier people. Happier people make a more peaceful, productive and joyful world, and that’s good. 

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Whipped Cream or Velvety Milk Foam?

Perception is reality. Not actually, but to the perceiver. 

Human brains do this funny thing. Our brains allow us to believe things we need to believe. They allow us to believe things we want to believe. 

We were at our favorite coffee shop. 

It’s our favorite because it has a bustling, city vibe. We like the action. We like being around people while they talk, work and laugh with one another. We like the modern music, written and performed by obscure artists playing moderately softly in surround sound. We like that the wall of street level windows displays the world outside to us, and that it displays us to the world outside. 

I was with our 9 year-old. I got coffee. He got hot chocolate.

The hot chocolate at this coffee shop comes with a layer of velvety milk foam on top. The baristas pour it like they pour lattes. They are milk foam artists. You get either an image of a decorative flower or an image of a decorative heart on the surface of your drink. It’s lovely. 

It’s sweet, creamy and delicious. 

Our 9 year-old called it whipped cream. I corrected him. “It’s velvety milk foam,” I explained. 

“It’s whipped cream,” he declared nonchalantly.

I looked at him. I furrowed my brow and smiled. With a bit of a chuckle I once again offered the truth I was certain of. 

“It’s velvety milk foam,” I reiterated.

He furrowed his brow and smiled in parody-laden homage to my furrowed brow and smile. Then he returned the reiterative favor by plainly stating, “It’s whipped cream.”

We both laughed. Something we do quite often when we’re together. 

We never did settle the matter. Doesn’t matter, though. To me, it was velvety milk foam. To him is was whipped cream. Perception is reality. Either way, it was sweat, creamy and delicious.

As educators, parents and caregivers we often find ourselves in situations where the reality of our perceptions doesn’t exactly match the reality of our kids’ perceptions. How do we wade through varying perceptive realities to get to the outcomes we’re looking for: safety, health, learning, joy, balance, etc.?

What if we prioritize the outcomes over the details and the differences in perception? What if we put our energy into exhausting the dialogue with outcomes in mind? What if we engage our kids in exhaustive dialogues, model tools and strategies that can help them share thinking in compassionate ways, and support them in problem solving and planning?

Nothing about raising and teaching kids is fool proof. In my experience, when we sort through challenges with an eye on coming together around positive pathways forward (rather than making our points about perception and reality), restorative, growth-producing and relationship-building outcomes seem to be enhanced. 

Whipped cream or velvety milk foam? We never did come to an agreement. 

What we did was sit for a while at our favorite coffee shop, chatting and laughing, observing the world around us and connecting with one another, taking advantage of the gifts of family and leisure time. Incredible gifts that I am incredibly grateful for. 

Our perceptions were the same about that.

Besides, without being able to agree on what it was, whatever was on top of the hot chocolate was still sweet, creamy and delicious!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks!

Love, Love, Love…Love You More!

My wonderful, amazing, incredible, gorgeous, phenomenal, brilliant Aunt Florine passed on Friday morning. 

I last spoke with her on Wednesday. Per usual, she answered the phone, “Good morning, my wonderful, amazing, incredible, handsome, phenomenal, brilliant nephew Seth!”

Per usual, I responded, “Go on.”

Even though we’d played that back and forth a thousand times over the past several decades, once again, we laughed together.

My Aunt Florine laughs from her heart. A wonderful, amazing, incredible, gorgeous, phenomenal, brilliant laugh. As I write this reflection, I can hear it.

On Wednesday we talked about love. 

We talked about Israel and our prayers for peace; peace for our family, peace for our friends, and peace for all innocent people. 

When my Aunt Florine speaks you hear and you feel her words. She sees what she sees, she knows what she knows, she wants what she wants, and for the most part, she has always had the ablity to will her vision into reality. 

Hearing her talk about a vision of peace has me believing it will one day be true.

Hearing her tell me she loves me fills me with love. I can hear her telling me, even now. 

Yesterday we ate dinner with our cousins at my Aunt Florine’s house. Unlike every other time for the past almost fifty years of my life, she wasn’t at the table. 

This time, instead of being at the table, she was everywhere. In every hug and every tear, in every memory shared, and in every grief-stricken gaze. In every comforting smile. Everywhere. 

My children spent their time walking around the house, touching, feeling and thinking about every familiar thing. Their Aunt Florine is so intensely important to them.

Through his tears our 8 year-old leaned in to tell me how sad he was that he just thought of something he wanted to tell Aunt Florine, and now, he can’t tell her anything. 

I told him I understand that feeling and the heartache associate with it. Then, I told him I believe there is a way. 

I reminded him about something he and I have discussed many times. I believe people bound by love are bound for eternity. 

He leaned in further to sob into my shirt. Then, after restoring a bit, he went for a walk.

Aunt Florine’s house is filled with endless interesting things. I watched him walk off, pausing here and there, breathing in eight years of memories of his beloved great aunt. 

He eventually stopped, sat on a couch, and rested. I joined him after a short while. 

We sat together for a moment before he told me “something strange” had happened. 

He said that in his mind, he told aunt Florine he loves her, and that as he did an object came into view. He pointed to a picture frame no more than two feet in front of us on the coffee table. The words, “love you more” were etched into the frame.

That’s how Aunt Florine always responds when you tell her you love her.

“Love you more!”

He smiled. He said it was strange that he came to that spot, on that couch, in front of that frame. He said he didn’t notice it until just after he told her he loves her. 

He was transformed. He was now filled with lightness where there had been distinct heaviness only moments before. 

I suggested he was experiencing the connection we talked about, and that “strange” thing that happened might have actually been Aunt Florine telling him “love you more!” 

I said I believe it was. His smile widened. His Aunt Florine loves making him smile. 

Is it strange to feel bonded in love, even after a loved one has passed? Is it strange to see and hear messages of love in signs all around us?

Maybe the evidence of a continued connection is the same as the evidence that provides us with proof of a love bond in the first place. We feel it. Those feelings belong to us. Those feelings are our birth right. Human beings feel love.

I believe we can trust those feelings. I believe we should lean into those feelings. I believe those feelings are a gift to be nurtured and cherished. 

To the best of my knowledge, we can’t know for certain what happens to us from a spiritual, metaphysical standpoint when we pass. We can, however, know and trust what we feel.

I feel indelibly connected to my Aunt Florine. Possibly even more so than before. All I feel, and all I have felt from the moment I learned that she had passed is love. All I remember is love. It’s comforting. I see it as a gift.

My Aunt Florine is my mom’s sister. They have another sister named Sandy and their mother’s name is Ruth. 

Ruth (Nana) and Sandy both passed several years ago. Nana, Aunt Florine, Aunt Sandy and my mom are, by far, four of the most brilliant, strong, resilient, and loving people imaginable. My mom now carries the torch on behalf of all of them. It’s an intensely bright torch, to be sure. 

They are each formidable women who have impacted the lives of countless people in very positive ways.

My Nana filled rooms by simply stepping into them. You could not help but be drawn to her. She is a force. Funny, loving, and strong beyond measure. My Nana is with me every day.  

My Aunt Sandy was tremendously successful in business. Her presence as a loving daughter, sister, aunt and friend is magical and undeniable. She poured herself into everything and everyone. She is universally loved and well known for her civil rights efforts, specifically the impact she has made in the areas of access and equal rights for all. My aunt Sandy is with me every day.

My mom is a Ph.D…”Dr. Micki” (and “Dr. Mimi” to her grandkids). She’s an author, an international motivational speaker, and an inspirational life coach. Almost two years after having a massive stroke my mom continues to inspire us each day with her strength, her light-hearted wisdom, her sharp wit, her persistence, and her resilience. You can view her Ted Talk here: “Ageless Wisdom – Explore Your Untapped Potential by Dr. Micki Berg” and you can read her book here: “I Don’t Want To Be Anybody But Me: The Stories Of Women Who Experienced A Dramatic Shift From A Negative To Positive Self-Image (Workbook Included)”

My Aunt Florine is a captain of industry. Her contributions in the field of health and wellness have been nothing short of gargantuan. She has been an advisor to business and political leaders at all levels. She has mentored countess entrepreneurs and helped to develop businesses in all sectors as a member of boards and as a trusted thought partner. She has been an author and a speaker. She is a passionate philanthropist whose massively generous donations have been life affirming and life saving for countless people in need. 

Most importantly my Aunt Florine is a loving daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, great aunt, friend and partner. 

Throughout my life, my Aunt Florine has showered me with love and affection. She has unfailingly done the same for Lorelei and our kids. 

In recent years she’s supported my growth as a husband, a father, a son, a brother and a community leader by being genuine, open and vulnerable. She is an incredible role model. 

I count myself truly blessed to have her in my life. Through ups and downs she’s been real with me, helping me tread a path of triumphs and challenges with hope, optimism and faith.

“Something strange” has been happening to me since she passed. I’ve felt her presence more deeply. I’ve had visions of her energy spreading far and wide, continuing to contribute to the positive on an even grander scale. 

Maybe it’s a part of my grieving process. Maybe it’s a reassuring thought I’ve manufactured to save myself from the intense heartache I’m not quite ready to feel. 

On the other hand, maybe it’s true. 

Maybe our connection to those we’re bound in love with is eternal and indelible. 

Maybe a legacy of love as strong as my Aunt Florine’s becomes a limitless and unstoppable force, that spreads across the world planting seeds of peace and compassion wherever it goes. 

Yes…that. I believe that. That’s what I believe. 

My Aunt Florine signed her letters, “Love, Love, Love” and she insisted, “Love you more!” In response to expressions of love. 

With everything she’s done, it is overwhelmingly the love that defines her. From my perspective, love has always been her foundation and her reason. 

When Lorelei and I brought our kids to our Aunt Florine’s house every single day for more than a year during the pandemic and asked, “How are you?” and “Is there anything we can do for you?” she would simply say, “Yes…come back tomorrow!” If we didn’t show up in the morning, she would call and remind us to come in the afternoon. 

At the end of every phone conversation, when I say, “Let me know if you need anything,” she always says, “Just call again tomorrow.” Every single time. Every time, for as long as I remember, all she’s ever asked from me is that I know I’m loved, and that I know we love each other. 

I’m so grateful to be bound in love with my wonderful, amazing, incredible, gorgeous, phenomenal, brilliant Aunt Florine.

I’m supremely confident her impact and her energy continues now, that it will continue to live and thrive, that it’s only becoming stronger as it spreads exponentially outward from those who have been given the gift of her presence in their lives, and that it will keep spreading light and love wherever it goes.

May the name of Florine Mark be remembered for a blessing.

“Love, love, love…love you more!” – Florine Mark (my wonderful, amazing, incredible, gorgeous, phenomenal, brilliant Aunt Florine)

I Don’t Need Feech!

Sometimes our youngest learners teach us the most. 

I’ll never forget the kindergarten student who loved learning and being in class so much he didn’t want to leave for speech services. 

He loved being with his friends, he loved his teacher, he loved building with Legos and he loved playing with toys.

When he left for speech he was pulled away from those things, if only for a short time. 

He was too young to understand the value of speech services.

Some, early in the school year he told our wonderful speech pathologist, in no uncertain terms, “I don’t need feech!” 

I love it!

“I don’t need feech!”

It seems that maybe he did.

It reminds me of something parents, caregivers and educators do all the time. What do you tell yourself you don’t need, even when the need is glaring?

I don’t need to eat lunch today.

I don’t need to get eight hours of sleep.

I don’t need to connect with colleagues.

I don’t need to ask for help.

I don’t need to exercise today.

I don’t need to take time for myself.

I don’t need to stretch.

I don’t need to hydrate.

I don’t need to reflect. 

I don’t need…

The irony is that some many of the needs we deny ourselves are critical to wellbeing, our learning and our growth. Even when they take time, they enhance our self-concept, our relationships and our productivity.

We all know the data around self-love, self-compassion and self-care is exhaustive and definitive.

We are absolutely better when we make sure our needs our met. We’re better for ourselves, we’re better for one another, and we are better for the kids we serve. 

Next time you hear yourself insisting, “I don’t need feech!” – whatever “feech” is to you in that moment, make sure you find a way to resist the pull, and go get yourself some “feech!”

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

The 20 Minute Response Strategy to Positive Pathways

Monday is Yom Kippur. 

For Jewish people, Yom Kippur wraps up 10 days of reflection and repentance that begin on Rosh Hashanah. 

The words “Rosh Hashanah” translate into head of the year (signifying the start of a new lunar year in Judaism), and Yom Kippur translates to day of atonement. 

There’s a story about a famous historical rabbi who was known for writing a list of mistakes he made each day before he went to bed.

He would write the list and promise to do better the next day.

The thing is, he often repeated the same mistakes he promised to correct, even as soon as the very next day.

Noticing this, a friend asked, “Rabbi, why write the list and make the promise each day if you’re only going to break it?”

The rabbi answered, “Ahh, good question…but tonight when I write the list and make the promise, I’m actually going to mean it!”

None of us are strangers to human error. No matter what we believe, what we practice or how we live, we all make mistakes. 

The really cool thing about mistakes is that they help us learn.

Our capacity to grow is limitless. 

The only thing that can stop us from learning from our mistakes is ourselves. 

When we continue to try, even and especially in the face of repeated setbacks, we give ourselves endless opportunities to succeed. 

When we model grace, self-love and a growth mindset we give our kids the same.

One area in which I’m actively working to grow is in my response to people in situations where I find myself emotionally triggered.

It happens to the best of us. Something is said or done that strikes a nerve and we respond from a place of emotion rather than a place of thoughtfulness.

The other day I tried a thing the other day when I found myself in that very situation. It wasn’t rocket science but it was a thing.

I was triggered and ready to speak in frustrated tones. I also knew that isn’t ever my preference.

Whenever I respond in negative ways it tends to increase negativity and extend triggering situations. So I gave myself a minute to consider my response.

In that minute I realized I needed more time. I knew I was on the right path, slowing down, breathing deeply, considering what impact I could have on those around me, thinking about how to lift the situation rather than dragging it around (and possibly even down).

So, I set a timer on my phone for 20 minutes. I made an agreement with myself that I would not respond in a negative way for at least 20 minutes. If in 20 minutes I still thought a negative, frustrated response was appropriate, then so be it.

Guess what. I didn’t. 20 minutes was just enough time for me to remember how much better it feels to meet a triggering, potentially negative experience or interaction with positivity, patience and grace.

Is it reasonable to set a timer each time we get upset? Is it possible? Maybe not.

That said, I’ve spent plenty more time than 20 minutes draining energy from myself and others with negative self talk, frustrated tones and unproductive confrontation in some situations.

To be clear it’s mostly all good. I’m generally surrounded by people who lift me up and I spend most of my time in positive, loving and kind interactions with those people.

I am human, though. So I do make mistakes and I do look for ways to learn from them when I can. I’m going to keep trying the 20 minute response strategy to positive pathways when I have the opportunity. Even if I fail a bunch between succeeding.

It feels good, and interestingly, it seems to enhance my relationships, provide others with enhanced outcomes, and move me through challenges even more quickly than when I respond to triggering situations immediately.

Slow and steady might actually win the race.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Do Fun Things. Enjoy Life.

There’s nothing to it. If you want to enjoy life, do fun things. There you go.

Well, maybe it’s not quite that simple. Life is jam packed with experiences. Some we choose. Some we don’t choose. Some we have control over. Some we don’t have control over.

Our eight year – old and I are reading “13 Things Strong Kids Do” by Amy Morin. He keeps reminding me that when we can’t control what happens we should work on controlling how we feel about it. That helps us set our own course in any kind of weather.

We were in Knoxville a few weeks ago. We were visiting our Nan and our Pop. It’s been almost four years since we were able take what had previously been an annual road trip. The recent pandemic shifted those plans. We love our Nan and our Pop. That shift was tough.

Now, we’re back at it and feeling great that we can be. It’s fun!

We could avoid the ten hour drive by sticking with FaceTime, phone calls and texts. We’d still be able to interact with Nan and Pop, but those kids of interactions aren’t nearly as fun or as meaningful, so we take the drive.

We laugh and play on the road. We share our time and enjoy keeping close company with each other.

When we’re in Knoxville we laugh and play with Nan and Pop. We make deep and lasting connections that we couldn’t make through screens. We have fun!

One of the great things about Tennessee is the temperate climate. Because of the blue skies and the hot sun we decided on a hotel with a pool on the outside.

Guess what…it rained every day we were there. We couldn’t control that.

Guess what else…the rain didn’t stop us.

Drizzly and cold, our crew didn’t’ waste any time not being in outside hotel pool. Day after cold, wet day we geared up and jumped in. It was fun! Possibly more fun than it would have been without the rain.

We played the color guessing dunk game, shark attack, swim race, and many more classic Berg kid pool games.

We made up a new game called, “Skip Flop” during which players try to skip their flip flops as many times as they can on the surface the pool without hitting their siblings (or their parents) in the face. Very few casualties occurred.

One of my favorite moments was when our almost 14 year – old jumped in on the first day and joyfully exclaimed, “I forgot how fun this is!”

It’s easy to skip trips to the pool wen you’re busy with other stuff, working on pursuing interests, or just too comfortable being dry. Turns out, when we push through the “busy” list, get our bathing suits on and jump in…it’s fun!

We spent hours in that pool. It was great.

I’ll alway remember the first trip back to Tennessee after the world got right side up again, and the important reminder to make room for fun, even when I’m too busy or too tired.

I understand how fortunate we are to have opportunities. I try hard to stay grateful in every moment of every day.

I know that many people don’t’ have access to road trips, hotel pools and even to Nan’s and Pop’s. I try not to take these things for granted.

My hope for all families and all individuals is that there are times when they can access people, things and activities they love…and that when they can, they choose to.

We can’t alway decide what’s in front of us. We can’t always avoid unanticipated challenges and roadblocks…the small, inconsequential ones or the big, mountain moving ones.

One of the things our fun-loving kids and a rainy week to Knoxville reminded me of is that if we work really hard to focus with open hearts and open minds we can sometimes control how we feel about whatever road we’re on, warts and all…and when we find enough calm and enough clarity we can sometimes find enough fun to truly enjoy the moments we have on this long and winding road.

Live. Love. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

The Amazing Human Being – Truly a Miracle!

I was walking with our eight year-old the other day. We were downtown in Detroit. It was sunny. Winter was almost behind us. It was one of those Michigan moment when the coats come off and you’re compelled to be outside.

Loads of people were taking advantage of the beautiful day. I remembered these moment from my childhood. Walking around the city, feeling the connectivity and the rush of energy these streets so effortlessly provide.

He looked at me and asked, “Hey Daddy?”

I answered, “Yes, Sir?”

He said, “I was thinking…”

I replied, “Uh Huh.”

He continued, “It’s amazing that human beings exists and that we are what we are.”

I dug in, ”What do you mean?”

With thoughtful enthusiasm he told me all about it. Turns out, the kid views our existence as miraculous. He made some sense, too.

Albert Einstein said, “Live your life as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle.”

I think the latter might be the way.

Our eight year-old is a thinker. He’s incredibly reflective. This isn’t the first time he’s opened my eyes. Every little thing. It is pretty incredible.

Why, then, is it so difficult for me to be grateful all the time?

I do have gratitude. It’s just that it tends to show up around majestic, magnificent moments. Beautiful sunsets, the birth of my children, huge, life changing events like when the Spartans make the Sweet Sixteen, and so on. Great moments indeed, but at closer examination…aren’t all moments miraculous?

What about every time we interact with one another? What if every time one human being had an interaction with another human being they both considered it miraculous? What if each time we connect we do so with intentionally, savoring the moments we get to spend together, listening with open-minded curiosity, and seeking to learn?

April is Autism Awareness month.

As the principal of a school with a categorical AIA program I’m keenly aware of the incredible impact children diagnosed with Autism can have on the learning, growth and strengthening of a community. As we move into April I think we can take the very important lesson our youngest taught me to heart.

Human beings are Amazing. Tall human beings, short human beings, musical human beings, athletic human beings, neurodivergent human beings, neurotypical human beings, human being who are shy, human beings who are outgoing, and every human being in between.

This seems like a really good time to be thoughtful and intentional about living our lives as if everything is a miracle. In fact, maybe it’s always a good time!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks!

Trying to Find the Source of the Poop Smell

I called home after work the other day. I asked Lorelei, “How’s it going?”

She answered, “It’s fine,” followed by, “we’re just trying to find the source of the poop smell.”

We do have a puppy and twelve shoes between us.

In this case, someone literally smelled poop. In that moment Lorelei and kids were actually searching the house for poop so they could clean it up.

Even so, the phrase landed on me with a figurative connection to the reality of parenting, education and daily human life.

My roles as an educator and a parent are both incredibly joyful. Congruently, they both also occasionally come with dizzying challenges. Not the least of which is repeatedly finding myself faced with the task of “trying to find the source of the poop smell,” in one way or another.

It comes in multiple forms.

Sometime I smell it, by which I mean sometimes I’m aware a challenge exists: the demands of putting forward a rigorous curriculum while simultaneously fostering classroom and community cultures focused on relationships, connections and social-emotional well-being, nuanced and complex human interactions that inadvertently lead to miscommunication and strain at work and at home, the heavy lifting of seeking to understand functions of behaviors that can confuse and distract us, and so on.

Sometimes I don’t smell it, by which I mean there are times when others have challenges I struggle to understand and/or recognize. My struggle to understand and/or recognize the challenges in those situations doesn’t tend to make them disappear. Contrarily, a failure to understand and/or recognize challenges faced by those around me can exacerbate the challenges. Perception is reality. A challenge is a challenge, regardless of my fallibility in any given moment.

When someone is struggling in ways I don’t understand, my ability to empathize and respond with compassion is occasionally impeded. I’m working, in part, through a study of contemplative practices such as mindfulness, meditation and flow-inducing activities (like exercise and art) to address that roadblock. It feels like I’m headed in the right direction. Still, I have a long way to go.

Sometime “the poop smell” is coming from me. I’ve stepped in it, so to speak. During times of heightened stress I occasionally even find myself manufacturing challenges that might otherwise not exist. I occasionally smell “poop” I never end up finding. Positive progress happens when I muster the strength to let it go and move on during those times (often by making use of the contemplative practices mentioned above).

We all have challenges. In fact, problem finding and problem solving are arguably what it’s all about. Through a parenting and education lens it’s important to both recognize when challenges present themselves and to find pathways toward solutions.

Ignoring the “poop smell” can cause unhealthy circumstances, both for individuals and for the community. Ruminating on the “poop smell” for too long without being able to identify it’s source or find a remedy can do the same.

When it comes to “trying to find the source of the poop smell” I believe we need to take a balanced approach. Trust your own senses, believe and support those around you, make genuine efforts to create healthy, safe spaces for all to move around in, and always remember that there is a positive way forward.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.


We didn’t plan to have a squirrel in our car yesterday morning. Regardless, it happened. 

Sometimes things we don’t plan for happen anyway. For parents, caregivers and educators this is a relatively constant phenomenon.

I was riding in the “way back” (mini-van language) with our oldest. The two “littles” were in the middle seats and our 11 year-old was shotgun with Lorelei driving. We we’re about halfway to Sunday school when I heard a strange, scrappy noise coming from just behind me followed almost immediately by a strange sensation on my right shoulder. 

Believe it or not, a squirrel sprung up onto me, brushed past my right cheek, leapt into the air, ricocheted like a parkour athlete off my son’s leg, scrambled through the middle seat and up onto the top of the dashboard, where he (or she) proceeded to run frantically back and forth in front of Lorelei’s face, stopping every once in a while to lock eyes with her. It was a strange and awkward showdown, and remember, she was driving. I can’t quite describe the energy shift in the car during this unique squirrel-related event. Time slowed down and reality shifted. Out of body, for sure.

I was impressed at how calm everyone stayed. We decided that rolling the windows down, pulling over and eventually opening the doors was the way, and it worked. When the opportunity presented itself, our squirrel stowaway exited the vehicle with urgency. 

We’re still processing. A range of emotions persists. We’re mostly laughing now. We weren’t entirely comfortable driving home but we did. 

Sometimes things happen. Some things happen that we would have never expected or imagined. Some things happen that generally seem unlikely, even in hindsight. When we face whatever comes our way with love, respect and grace we tend to do ok.

Having our squirrel in the car experience reminded me, in spite of the many winding roads I’ve traveled,  how fortunate I am to be Lorelei’s husband and dad to our wonderful kids. How did that happen? Probably just about as unlikely as the squirrel in the car, but here we are…and thank goodness for that. 

Maybe our well paved paths and surefire plans aren’t the keys to happiness, but rather our ability to appreciate the twists and turns along the way. 

If you ever have a surprise squirrel encounter, may it be a catalyst to reflection, joy and gratitude…as this one has been for me.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.